Authentic Material is material used in the TEFL classroom which was originally created for native speakers of English.
The reason we use authentic material in class rather than material specifically written for learners is to provide more variety and authenticity to the lesson. It also allows you to tailor the content of the lesson more specifically to your class needs and interests.
For example, most ELT textbooks will cover general subjects like the environment, making friends, exploring a city and so on. However, if your class were a group of hotel staff learning English for Tourism you would want to introduce them to material that they will eventually be dealing with in their work such as train timetables, facts about the sights in the region, theater programs and so on.
Types of Authentic TEFL Material
Examples of authentic material include:
- business reports
But you do not have to limit authentic material to printed material. You can also include:
- video snippets from TV
- sound clips from the radio
and so on. In fact, authentic material includes any example of language which was produced originally for native English speakers.
Choosing Authentic TEFL Material
Choosing the correct type of authentic material is important. Firstly, it must be of an appropriate level and complexity. For example, you could not give a beginners class the front page of the New York Times and ask them to analyze it. Likewise offering a company report to a class of airport staff learning English to deal with tourists would be inappropriate.
It is important therefore to firstly make it relevant to the age and background of the class.
Business executives learning advanced Business English could be expected to read an article in The Financial Times, for example. Similarly a class of teenagers might find an article on the Oscars interesting.
Then it needs to be of the right level. An intermediate level class of young learners could deal with a short article on the top ten movies this week but they may struggle with an in-depth interview with Johnny Depp on how he prepares for a role.
Adapting Authentic TEFL Material
Especially for elementary students, finding good authentic material can be quite hard but there are a few options. Firstly you can take authentic material and then simplify it. In fact this turns it into “unauthentic” material but the core will be authentic and it can be used in an authentic environment. For example, you could take a short passage from a newspaper and replace complex constructions and words to simplify it.
Secondly, if it’s appropriate, you can use material written for native speaker children and use that as it tends to be simpler than material written for adults. It’s harder to do when the age of your class is older, but even then you can take material from a Children’s Encyclopedia or reference book and use that with adults.
Thirdly you can use very short and discrete pieces of authentic material in the classroom. Examples here would include a notice in a shop window which is a few words long; a bus ticket; a business card and so on. In other words, your students aren’t confronted by a long difficult and intimidating text but something very short which, with their dictionaries, they can understand.
Used thoughtfully, authentic material provides a very good way to keep the class interest up, provide your students with language and usage very specifically tailored to their needs, and importantly, authentic material can bring a new level of interest to the class.
If you are teaching English to a class in China you could have them look at a short brochure about your home town back in the USA to let them know what is out there. Using a menu you could have your German business class learn about ordering food in a New York restaurant.
The possibilities are endless.